Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The March of History

This weekend, the Monkey House was enthralled and delighted by the success of the Baltimore Ravens in their playoff game against the Denver Broncos. With one more playoff win, the Ravens can play in Super Bowl XLVII on February 3, in New Orleans, LA. On this day in 1967, the very fist Super Bowl was played in Los Angeles, CA. The game was called the AFL-NFL World Championship, and a lot of things were different about football and the US, when the Green Bay Packers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs.

But that is not what I really want to talk to you about. Today, about a hundred years earlier (1870) to be exact, Thomas Nast published a political cartoon that gave the Democratic party its symbol: the jackass. They would prefer to refer to it as a donkey, most likely, but I think we can all agree that most Democrats, simply by nature of being politicians, are jackasses. Incidentally, four years later, Nast drew an elephant in a cartoon to represent the GOP, and, instantly, those jackasses became elephants.

That is not what I really want to talk about, either. In the world of letters, today was the day, in 1899, when California school teacher Edwin Markham published his poem, “The Man with the Hoe.” Inspired by Millet’s 1863 French painting of a similar name (only in French), the poem contains the lines, “Is this the Thing the Lord God made and gave / to have dominion over sea and land”? I sometimes feel that way when I look in the mirror and watch my bulbous nose spread slowly across my face. Anyway, a great scandal occurred when Markham’s poem was reprinted in an Eastern newspaper as “The Man with the Ho.” The paper broke sales records that day, but was forced to field countless complaints later for “not delivering the goods.”

Yet, again, that is not what I really wanted to talk to you about. In 1987, Paramount used this day to announce that they would place a 30-second ad for Diet Pepsi at the front of their videocassette release of Top Gun. So, the movie that gave us “the need for speed,” and miraculously bright shots of Tom Cruise’s pearly whites, may also be responsible for the thirty-five minutes of wretched merchandising in the movie theatres, today. Thank you Paramount for every Bod commercial I have ever had to tolerate.

However, let me get to my point since the previous is not what I wanted to talk about, either. What is really on my mind is that on this day, in 1981, Omaha, Nebraska, native Bob Gibson was elected to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot.  This is remarkable not because of Gibson’s stellar career, his ferocious personality, nor the fact that he hails from the largest city in my current home state.  This is remarkable because this year’s Hall of Fame balloting, 32 years later, produced not one inductee.  That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, not one baseball player currently being considered for inclusion was deemed worthy of the Hall.  Not Mark McGwire (again), not Roger Clemens, not Barry Bonds, not anyone. The highest vote getter, at 68% (you need 75% to get in), was Craig Biggio, a highly respected second baseman, in his first year of eligibility, whose claim to the Hall rests on his 3060 hits (a pretty good number).

And why is it that baseball's writers, who are the gatekeepers of the Hall of Fame, have found no one from among a heady list of recent stars to invite into the HoF? Well, I blame Lance Armstrong. His recent fall from grace has cast a pall upon every sportsman and woman of his era. After all, if Lance was a juicer, they all must have been, from Sammy Sosa to Smarty Jones.  And, if they were all cheating, do they belong in the pantheon of their sport?

I will let you decide. I gotta go…Oprah’s on!

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